SPECIAL REPORT by CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
Charismatic, charming and cheerful are three words that best sum up the demeanour of the President of the United States of America in Lisbon over the weekend.
Despite the tough security, journalists were accommodated to the maximum in having access to the American President at meetings with the
Portuguese President Cavaco Silva on Friday morning and with Prime Minister José Sócrates in the early afternoon.
The economic and financial crisis topped the agenda in talks between the Portuguese and Americans as well as developing possible areas of bi-lateral cooperation between the two nations in areas such as renewable energy, commerce, investment, science and technology.
After a meeting with José Sócrates, which lasted 20 minutes, the two leaders gave a joint press conference, at which the Algarve Resident was present, where Barack Obama praised “Portugal’s determination to strengthen the Portuguese economy” and promised that the United States was ready to “support the efforts being made by the Portuguese Government to face the challenges created by some financial markets”.
“Obviously Portugal is working to try and resolve the challenges posed by the financial markets and I think it is very important to stress that the Prime Minister has signed up to a package of tough economic measures.
“We will work together with all other European countries, in addition
to Portugal, to support these efforts and I want
to say how much we appreciate the work that they are doing.”
José Sócrates, too, stressed the considerable agreement between the United States and Portugal as to the “need to reform multilateral financial institutions by ensuring better international market regulation and greater cooperation between states to meet the challenges thrown up by the international crisis”.
At the Palácio de Belém, President Cavaco Silva, who gave Barack Obama a bronze figure of the Portuguese Water Dog Bo and a framed copy of the first ever trade agreement signed between Portugal and the United States during the reign of Queen Dona Maria II, also stated his “satisfaction at the confidence shown by the United States in Portugal’s ability to overcome challenges caused by the economic crisis”.
Cavaco Silva also suggested that the United States could invest more in the Portuguese economy and stated that the volume of United States investment in the Portuguese economy was “far from what it could be” and added that considering the size of the US market and the quality of Portuguese goods, “it was a shame” that exports to the US weren’t higher.
Barack Obama said at the press conference at São Bento with José Sócrates that both countries had discussed ways of “stimulating employment and prosperity for both peoples” that could be encouraged by partnerships and investment between the United States and Portugal.
“We agree that there is room for better cooperation in the renewable energy sector,” said Barack Obama, a sentiment echoed by José Sócrates who said it was a way of “generating new jobs”.
On a lighter note, he told journalists: “I understand there has been a fair amount of interest here about how my family has been enriched by
Portugal, specifically Bo our dog. He is the most popular member of the White House.”
At the EU/USA Summit, early on Saturday evening, President Barack Obama summed up the events of the past two days.
“This summit was not as exciting as other summits because we basically agree on everything, but nevertheless I value these meetings for a simple reason: America’s relationship with our European allies and partners is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world.”
Reaffirming that the United States needed a “strong and united Europe”, three steps were taken by the summit: to increase trade and investment by US$4.4 trillion, closer security cooperation following recent terrorist activities, including problems to do with Iran’s nuclear programme and terrorism and the Sudan, and finally a commitment to tackling global environmental issues such climate change, emissions reduction and reducing duplication and inefficiency in all areas.